Spores of fungus, Candida albicans

The long strands are the tubular filaments (hyphae) that have developed from the fungal spores. Yeast cells (rounded, yellow) are budding from the ends of the hyphae (red). Candida albicans causes the infection known as candidiasis which affects the moist mucous membranes of the body, such as skin folds, mouth, respiratory tract and vagina. Oral and vaginal conditions are known as thrush.

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Microbes are always hitting the headlines. Keep up to date with the latest microbiology news. Most stories are linked to the full article.

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  • Protected by a mutation

    5th January, 2017

    While investigating a case of a persistent bacterial infection in a six-week-old baby, researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA, have uncovered a mutation in vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) that allows it to survive last resort antibiotic treatment. The mutation appears to trigger increased levels of a signalling molecule called alarmone, which helps VRE under stress to tolerate antibiotics, but usually this isn’t enough to fight off linezolid and daptomycin, two last resort antibiotics used to treat VRE infection. A further study showed that the formation of biofilms – colonies of bacteria that stick together – made it difficult for treatments to get through and prevented the drugs from working. As biofilms often form on medical devices such as catheters and heart valves, this finding helps towards understanding the impact of potential mutations in already resistant bacteria.

  • Following the white-nose

    5th January, 2017

    White-nose syndrome is a disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which has killed an estimated 6 million bats in North America since its discovery in 2006. P. destructans is clonal, meaning it is genetically identical even as it spreads across different regions, which makes it difficult to track its movements. However, a research team at Pennsylvania State University, USA, has recently found a virus infecting P. destructans that does evolve variations depending on where the fungus has colonised. So despite the fact that P. destructans remained the same wherever it went, the genetic material of viruses isolated in Pennsylvania were different to that of viruses found in New York – providing a very useful marker for researchers to see the route P. destructans took and where it might strike next.

  • How a bacterium can survive in the gut

    5th January, 2017

    Although the human gut is full of gastric acid that helps to inhibit the growth of microbes, somehow Helicobacter pylori – a bacterium that can cause gastritis – is able to survive. Now, scientists at the Institut Pasteur, France, have revealed its secret: a new nickel transport system. This may seem unusual, but nickel helps to regulate an enzyme called urease, which is a protein that can neutralise stomach acid, so an efficient system for transporting the metal makes it much easier and quicker for H. pylori to stop the acid from inhibiting its spread. This discovery may be able to help researchers develop ways of fighting infections by H. pylori and other pathogenic bacteria that have similarly adapted to their environment.

  • Using carbon monoxide for good

    5th January, 2017

    In light of the rise of drug-resistant gonorrhoea, scientists at the University of York, UK, are developing a new carbon monoxide-based antibiotic to fight Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacterium responsible for the disease. After finding that N. gonorrhoeae is particularly susceptible to the toxicity of carbon monoxide, the research team harnessed the power of carbon monoxide-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) and used them to target the bacterium’s respiratory system. The CO-RMs bind to the bacteria and prevent them respiring oxygen, so that N. gonorrhoeae can no longer produce energy. The researchers aim to use these results to go on to develop a drug treatment.

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